Herbal Solutions for Unwanted Moss and Mold Growth
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Helen Dowd
Posted on: March 30, 2003

I have a problem with moss and/or mold growing on my wooden deck and in my lawn. My yard is enclosed with high wooden fences and the deck area and affected lawn area is heavily shaded.

First of all, I’m not sure how to tell whether I have a moss problem or a mold problem.

The colour of the growth will be a good first indicator of what you have growing there. Most mosses are green and only the odd mould is green. Most of the moulds growing on wood or in lawns tend to be black. In any case pull a bit of the tufty stuff up and look at it with a magnifying glass. Mosses will have tiny leaves along their stems, while moulds will generally just be strings with branches.

Second, I need a solution. My husband found a reference to using elderflower tea to discourage molds on most plants. "The Garden Herbs" book from The Gardeners Handbooks series (published by Fog City Press, Frances Hutchinson, Consultant Editor, ISBN 1 876778 95 4) recommends using 1 cup of the fresh herbs to 2 cups of boiling water. The book goes on to say "Mix and leave to stand for 6 hours. Then strain the liquid and store. Mix 2 tablespoons of this tea into 8 cups of water in a watering can and water on ailing plants." Do you think this might be a solution for my problem?

I’m looking for a non-toxic remedy as I have an active toddler who loves to help me in the garden.

The elderflower tea is certainly helpful. You can also try cinnamon powder (or the extract with rubbing alcohol, but you would have to make sure your toddler does not drink the extract since rubbing alcohol is harmless for plants but harmful for humans. Ordinary Ethyl alcohol is intoxicating for humans but very harmful for plants and cannot be used as a substitute). Chamomile tea is also a good fungicide and it won’t matter if your toddler drinks it!

Flower of sulphur (is sulphur powder and I often wondered if the name resulted from someone not knowing how to spell "flour"!!), it is a good fungicide, but it acidifies the substrate it is used on and this will encourage moss to grow.

If you think you have moss growing on your deck I would suggest that a soapy scrub is the safest alternative to get rid of it. In the lawn, moss can be discouraged by raking hard to loosen and thereby drying the surface more, fertilizing and adding a bit of lime to sweeten the soil. Poorly lit, moist but nutrient starved, acidic soil grows great moss!

If you could cut the tree branches a bit near the base of the trees so as to allow more sun to reach the lawn, the grass will have a better chance to outcompete moss and mould.

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